Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program

What is it?

The Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) leads the Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP), providing scientific information that supports ecosystem approaches to management and conservation of coral reefs. Since its inception in 2000, Pacific RAMP has established baseline ecosystem assessments and initiated long-term monitoring of trends that integrate biological observations with water quality and oceanographic data. Pacific RAMP is also a key component of the NOAA Coral Program's National Coral Reef Monitoring Plan (NCRMP), a long-term effort to monitor the status and trends of U.S. coral reef ecosystems.

Coral and Algae and Fishes, Oh My!

School of bigeye trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) and a NMFS PIFSC CRED diver conducting fish counts at Swains Island, 
                 American Samoa, as part of the Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP). NOAA photo by Ben Ruttenburg of NMFS 
                 SEFSC.
School of bigeye trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus) and a NMFS PIFSC CRED diver conducting fish counts at Swains Island, American Samoa, as part of the Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (Pacific RAMP). NOAA photo by Ben Ruttenburg of NMFS SEFSC.

At more than 50 U.S. Pacific islands, atolls, and reefs, the Pacific RAMP conducts long-term monitoring of corals, algae, invertebrates, fishes, and microbes. This program also monitors water quality and oceanographic conditions. Broad-scale surveys—through the consistent use of comparable methods across diverse habitats, environmental conditions, and stressors from human activities—reveal spatial and temporal patterns and support an unprecedented ability to understand ecosystem processes (for example articles, Differences in Reef Fish Assemblages between Populated and Remote Reefs Spanning Multiple Archipelagos Across the Central and Western Pacific and Re-Creating Missing Population Baselines for Pacific Reef Sharks. Pacific RAMP provides information essential to resource managers and policymakers for the sustainable management of coral reef resources. For example, CRED has produced a series of booklets summarizing the research and significant findings from Pacific RAMP missions within the Mariana Archipelago and American Samoa.

Pacific RAMP: Where and Why

Pacific RAMP surveys started in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) and the Pacific Remote Island Areas (PRIA) in 2000 and extended to American Samoa in 2002, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in 2003 (Mariana Archipelago), and the main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) in 2005. The PRIA include Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands, Wake, Johnston, Palmyra, and atolls, and Kingman Reef. Pacific RAMP expeditions return to conduct surveys in each jurisdiction every 2-3 years (see timeline at right).

Pacific RAMP supports the following management objectives:

  • Monitor ecosystem health
  • Provide information to predict ecological consequences of climate change and ocean acidification
  • Assess ecological effects of fishing, land-based sources of pollution, and other threats
  • Establish and monitor the effectiveness of marine protected areas and other management strategies
  • Plan coastal development and mitigation
  • Prioritize and plan conservation strategies
  • Conduct change analyses to detect ecosystem shifts

Assessment and Monitoring Approaches

Pacific RAMP monitors biological resources through the use of multiple complementary methods: site-specific surveys, broad-scale surveys, autonomous reef monitoring structures (link to ARMS page) that provide indices of cryptic invertebrate biodiversity, and installations of calcification acidification units and collections of coral cores to assess effects of ocean acidification on corals and algae.

Observations of key oceanographic and water-quality parameters influencing reef conditions are collected as part of Pacific RAMP through several methods, including (1) a diverse suite of moored instruments (link to moored instruments on methods page) designed for long-term monitoring of temperature (2) conductivity, temperature, and depth profiles of the vertical structure of water properties, and (3) water samples for analyses of carbonate chemistry, nutrient and chlorophyll-a concentrations and other water properties.